Apocalypse Breath, Worse Than Morning Breath
Health issues as fodder for a post-apocalyptic author?
I often think about what would happen to a person’s health during a zombie apocalypse. Not just their hygiene, but their health. After a few days hair will be dirty, unshaven parts will be stubbly, breath will reek, and BO will be off the charts. And that’s just hygiene. I am talking real health issues here. How fast would our health decline, both physically and mentally? What’s it really like to be sick in such a dismal circumstance? Does it matter in fiction? Obviously there is no right or wrong answers, it’s what’s best for the story.
This aspect of an apocalypse is the scariest to me personally. I’ve had to deal with illness in the most uncomfortable situations a few times. It can range from being a miserable and lonely experience to a frightening and depressing one. I’m sure everyone has some incident where they can relate to these feelings. This topic is a goldmine for the writer looking for another cruel thing to throw at their characters.
Imagine any stress, depression, illness, or injury you’ve ever experienced and then imagine what that experience would be like with no creature comforts, no security, no help. Imagine riding out what would normally be an uncomfortable, even painful event completely alone in a strange place. Look back to your childhood, ever been sick at camp or at a sleepover? Ever felt homesick, alone, or lost? Maybe you’ve had a hangover, the flu, maybe something even more serious like childbirth or a cracked tooth (not equating the two events, just throwing out ideas). Have you ever gotten injured and had to wait for an ambulance or medical help? Imagine it and explore just how frightening it can be in that situation; the fear, the stress, the pain and discomfort.
I want to illustrate this point a bit because it’s so fun to write this stuff. Imagine you are traveling alone in an apocalypse. You find a large old factory; brick, three stories tall, doors and windows mostly busted out. Days back you heard from some travelers there was a gun safe on the third floor and you just happen to know how to crack a safe. As you explore the third floor you locate the safe. As you approach you hear a loud cracking noise and the floor drops out from under you. You fall through the rotten floor and to the floor below and break your leg in the fall. It’s cold and will be freezing in a few hours when the sun goes down. Already a chill wind blows through the broken windows. You are in pain and can’t move, you’re stuck in a pile of rotten wood with no way to get comfortable, maybe a few rusty nails are stabbing you. The swelling in your leg is increasing, the pain is becoming unbearable, and the fear is overwhelming.
Even if you could drag yourself any distance at all, it wouldn’t be far, not even out of the large building. You could never get somewhere for help, there’s no one or no place you know of that’s nearby. Imagine worrying about your safety in such a vulnerable state. You’re not able to do much for yourself and when the sun goes all the way down it will be pitch black and freezing cold, but the real problem is that’s when the zombies come out to feed (in this fictional world). The moment the sun drops completely from the sky you can no longer see a thing. Your pain is excruciating. Shortly you hear moans and the scuffling of feet echoing softly through the old building. You know it’s only a matter of time before they find you.
Any injury, any pain, even a discomforting feeling would be a serious and scary event and cause for alarm. You would likely get sick from any number of things in the course of a day of surviving. A scratch from a rusty nail, a bug bite, poison ivy, a tooth ache, or any number of minor injuries could be serious and life threatening. Food poisoning could kill you. If you had asthma or allergies you would get miserable real quick. I could obviously go on and on about a wide variety of ills and ailments.
So the next time you see one your characters crack a smile or breathe a sigh of relief break one of their bones. Give them internal pain and bloody stools (could just be gas and too many canned beets the night before). Or come up with your own devious way to put them in their right place until the big finish of your story. Then they can have a cookie and a juice box.
Luke Ahearn was born in New Orleans, LA. In addition to several fiction books he’s most recently completed Transformation, the second book in the Euphoria Z Series. He has over 20 years of professional game development experience in lead positions; designer, producer, and art director. He’s also authored several bestselling nonfiction books on computer game development. He owns a small prop studio and specializes in pirate art and props for theme parks, resorts, and other clients. He can be reached at http://www.LukeAhearn.com.
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The stench of rotting flesh is in the air! Welcome to the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour 2015, with 30+ of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of June.
Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or teaser…and pick up some great swag as well!
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